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One Herald After The Other

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The Herald - the first Herald - is a Qunari. Or rather, Tal-Vashoth; a Saarebas that broke free of the strangling, heavy chains, and shattered the millstone collar, and pulled the wire-hard threads out of the parched, silenced lips.

Once the former Saarebas learns to wield the rusty, entrapped voice without trailing into a hoarse growl, it is time to choose a name. A first act of defiance against the Qun; a first step towards pushing the memories of the collar and the chains and the Arvaraad’s grim, watchful eyes into the realm of bad dreams. Something that would be the complete opposite of Bas, Thing, object to be kept under lock and key lest it explodes into your face. And the opposite of Thing is… Person. The other Tal-Vashoth laugh at the suggestion, though, voices booming like captured thunder in the tiny tavern room - and so the silly name Person becomes shortened to Percy.

Percy is a man’s name, according to many of the humans they encounter. But Percy the Talk Vashoth is not a man. They… They might be, but they are not certain. And they are in no hurry to declare themself a man, or a woman, or someone who is both or neither. They want to go through all the options, as if through a selection of fine wines, to savour making a choice - because under the Qun, they were not even a they. They were an it. For now, it already feels quite exhilarating to be a not-it. To be a they. To be a person - to be Percy.

Plus, it is amusing to take in the confusion on the humans’ faces as they try to place the towering, seemingly flat-chested, huge-thighed, clean-jawed mercenary into one of their little gender boxes.

Percy is the first Herald, and for a while, their story progresses like it should. They are assigned as a bodyguard to some whispering, bickering nobs at the Conclave; the nobs then get blown up, while Percy lives (without getting paid!).

They emerge from the ordeal with a scar across their palm that glows a Fade-green light and pours out magic like nothing they have ever seen - and like nothing the southerners have ever seen, which is quite alarming, because they usually know more about spellcraft than someone who was not even allowed to speak,much less study evrn the most rudimental magic, for half their life.

The tiny ball of chest hair makes the green light a bit easier to wrangle. ‘Whatever that thing on your hand is, it’s useful,’ he says, giving Percy a reassuring clap somewhere mid-thigh. Percy can work with useful; they would still rather not walk around with a sliver of the raw Fade hissing and spitting in their palm like a magical viper, but at least it allows them to repel demons and seal the ruptures in the Veil that are cropping up in the wake of the Conclave disaster.

And this is what they do. For a while. Until the time comes to gather allies that could help tackle the largest rupture of all - the spinning, smoking,funnel-like Breach.

Percy decides to reach out to the rebel mages, because they are busy embracing their own magehood (which they actually put before the whole gender thing)… Only to discover that Grand Enchanter Fiona has mysteriously forgotten about their agreement, and that the rebels’ base of operations in Redcliffe has been taken over by a randomly invading Tevinter magister and his posse in ridiculous hoods.

A cult, as Percy learns, in service of a shadowy figure called the Elder One, who has some sort of grand, glorious plan to rule the world, which the Tal-Vashoth Herald - the first Herald - has apparently been 'meddling’ with by repairing the Veil.

For that, they need to die - but fortunately, the magister has a son and apprentice who are both revolted by the cult’s mad ambitions, and only too eager to help. After the conspiracy is thwarted, they will probably want to return to Tevinter, though Percy rather wishes they would stay. Especially the less flashy one, Felix. Who knew that children of magisters could have such soft, lovely smiles.

Thanks to Felix and Dorian (the more flashy one), Percy is prepared for the showdown with the magister. And what a showdown it is. With all sugary civility cast aside, shaking, cursing, little short of frothing at the mouth, he lunges at Percy, threads of green and black magic trailing from the tips of his gloves’ metal claws.

Before Percy can as much as make a move, the room is flooded in a stream of two-shaded energy. A ghostly tar-black stream that creeps straight towards them, beginning at the feet of Felix, who is doubled over, even more pale than when he feigned that fainting fit to pass Percy his warning note, gasping hoarsely in pain. And a blare of green that erupts from Percy’s palm, making them feel like their skin is being peeled off their bones by steel-hard wolf claws, and then ricochets off every wall.

The last thing that Percy remembers, before the pain turns into a white-hot flare before their eyes, is Fiona leaping in front of them to block out the ever-encroaching river of tar, no longer capable of standing idly by while the magister spins his vile web around her, and her mages, and the Inquisition.

After the flare fades to utter blackness, which in turn dissipates with a nauseating jolt, Percy gapes around blearily, their eyes travelling from Fiona, who is still kneeling by their side, to the hazy silvery spot that must be Dorian in his glossy silken robes, to their own shaking, twitching left hand… A hand that is no longer marked by any glowing scar.

Percy frowns, and splutters something in disbelief, and rounds their eyes till they turn into gigantic bloodshot orbs - but their palm remains as clean of the Veil-stitching magic as it was before the Conclave. Instead, the green light is bleeding through the fingers of… Felix.

Later on, they will know what happened - both Percy and the others. The magister, not that much of a scheming web-spinner if you look close enough, pushed into a corner by his own desperation to bring his family back, wished for two things for than anything else in the world: for his son to be cured of the Blight, and for the Fade’s Mark to be gone from Percy’s hand. And somehow - through some magical anomaly that must have appeared when the magister wound back time to steal away the rebel mages - that wish was granted. Percy and Felix switched curses, in a manner of speaking: the Mark went to the stunned, horrified young Tevinter; and the Blight was to have entered Percy, presumably, had Fiona not shielded them from the blow (and she, as it turns out, is a bit of an anomaly herself: she had the Blight once, as a Grey Warden, then got cured, and now cannot be infected again).

But these impossible revelations are for another time - for now, Felix, the second Herald, lifts his hand to his eyes with the slowness of a dreamwalker, the Mark bathing his face in a sickly shine (even though in reality, the flush of life has begun to bloom on his cheeks again, making him, dare Percy say, even cuter than he already is). His father, struck speechless by what has just happened, claws helplessly at his own throat and chest, dropping the sinister artifact that, not so long ago, he brandished in Percy’s face. A cube-shaped amulet that still thrums with reality-warping magic.

The amulet does not fall to the floor, however - instead, it floats up into the air, a yawning vortex of turquoise and black opening in its wake. A sharp cry of alarm - and Felix and Dorian are pulled in, vanishing from view even as the magister reaches after them, fear dancing in burning flashes across his pinpoint pupils. And the story of the Herald - the second Herald - moves past this unexpected bump, and progresses as it should.